Richard Piatt ReportingUtah Legislative leaders claim the success of the 2005 Legislative session is due to 'cooperation'. The House Speaker, Senate President, and Governor all point to the same issues as examples of that cooperation and success.
As it got closer to midnight, Utah lawmakers seemed to work faster for last minute votes on last minute bills. Not everything made it. But the general feeling about the 2005 gathering is positive.
Sen. John Valentine, Senate President: “The things that have gone on in the session, you look back and think it’s been a pretty jam packed 45 days.”
Governor Jon Huntsman, Jr: "I think we've been able to accomplish a great deal that's good for all taxpayers of this state."
Also a plus to Governor Huntsman, a good working relationship with the Senate President and House Speaker. In past sessions lawmakers felt like they've had the squeeze put on them, but say the Governor didn’t apply that type of pressure this year.
Rep. Greg Curtis, House Speaker: "Maybe it's in his personality, but if it is I didn't see it. He isn't an arm twister."
Utah Democrats are pleased they were kept in the loop, although didn't agree with some money decisions.
Rep. Ralph Becker, House Minority Leader: "We've had a respectful dialogue back and forth. We've been allowed to make sure our views are out there and expressed."
Money is always an issue during the legislative session. And this year there are some mixed feelings about how this year's surplus was divvied up.
When it comes to education, public schools say they could use more.
JoAnn Neilson, President, Utah PTA: "They keep telling us we have these 140,000 students coming in, yet they continue to hold back on the funding to do what we need to do."
Yet, in a year when Transportation wins big in the budget, other competing interests are pleased, especially advocates for the poor.
Judi Hilman, Utah Issues: "Low income programs did very well this year. And I have to add from a personal standpoint that there is a lot of compassion here on the hill."
The decisions made this year will affect a lot of people for years to come. Even though everyone doesn't agree on every decision, they do agree this year people were more agreeable.
The Legisalture's work isn't completely done. A special session is already set for April 20th, to deal with the state's dispute over the 'No Child Left Behind' education initiative.